Welcome to the botanical gardens of the San Diego Zoo and the San Diego Zoo Safari Park! There is an astounding wealth of plant life that graces our grounds. San Diego’s mild climate makes it possible to grow more different types of plants than almost anywhere else in the United States. With nearly two million plants between the two parks, our grounds represent truly world-class botanical gardens that have been recognized by the American Association of Museums. The varied gardens our horticulture staff and our dedicated garden volunteers care for are not only critical for keeping our animals healthy and content, but are also crucial in educating visitors about biodiversity and the importance of habitat preservation. Our collections are a resource for other zoos, botanical gardens, and universities, and the Zoo and Safari Park also act as “rescue centers” for rare and endangered plant species. We invite you to explore the wonders of our botanical world.
San Diego Zoo Collections
The San Diego Zoo’s 100 acres are home to a wide variety of extraordinary plants from habitats around the world, many of them rare in botanical collections. The Zoo maintains eight accredited plant collections, along with the thousands of plants that create the animal habitats and surround visitors in lush, exotic, and peaceful landscapes. From plants known for their colorful blossoms to stately, shade-giving trees to prickly denizens of the desert, the Zoo’s plants inspire admiration at every turn. To explore these leafy wonders, the Zoo offers “Plant Day” on the third Friday of every month, with a chance to wander inside the usually closed Orchid House and a variety of self-guided Botanical Walking Tours to discover more about this garden of earthly delights.
Feeding the Animals
Our horticulture team members have established themselves as among the best in the world at creating outstanding naturalistic habitats for animals. Our staff includes world-class browse specialists, who grow and manage specialized plant species specifically to feed Zoo and Park animals. These browse farms and gardens that comprise the San Diego Zoo Global Browse Program grow a wide variety of bamboo species for pandas and other animals, eucalyptus for the koalas, acacia trees for giraffes, ficus for many different species, and a variety of shrubs and herbaceous plants that produce leaves and flowers that animals eat and use as habitat enrichment. Since these plants grow year-round in San Diego, our browse specialists also work with other zoos and ship fresh cuttings nationwide when needed.
Safari Park Collections
Nestled among the hills of San Pasqual Valley, the San Diego Zoo Safari Park is a unique refuge for plant species. From towering acacias, sturdy conifers, and stately palms to rare succulents, California natives, and an astonishing array of blossoms vying for the attention of pollinators, the Safari Park is home to many unusual plants for the benefit of the animals and visitors alike. The Park’s inland location and varied elevations create an environment of herbaceous splendor that few places in the world could duplicate. With its own onsite water reclamation and recycling facility, the Park uses carefully planned irrigation and water-wise landscaping to help many rare and endangered plants thrive in safe surroundings in trust for the future. With three accredited garden collections—the Baja Garden, California Nativescapes Garden, and the Nicholas T. Mirov Conifer Arboretum—there is much to explore and admire in the horticultural side of the Safari Park.
San Diego Zoo Global is not only working to save animals from extinction, but plants as well. As habitats have dwindled and disappeared around the globe, plants have their own place in the conservation spotlight. Without plants to provide oxygen, moisture, food, and shelter, ecosystems cannot survive, and neither can their animal inhabitants. San Diego Zoo Global’s plant conservation efforts are international in scope, working with partners to help save some of the most endangered plant species, including coral trees, palms, cycads, and orchids that are nearly extinct in their native habitats. As part of these efforts, the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research maintains the Frozen Garden, a collection of preserved seeds from plants all over the world, and partners with the Center for Plant Conservation, a consortium of botanical gardens that collaborate on plant conservation initiatives.